Halloween Horrors from the World of Nursing

October 31st, 2011


By , BSN, RN

Caring and compassionate—these are words you often hear used to describe nurses. But on this Halloween how about those other nurses, the ones who seem concerned and considerate but really harbor hearts filled with evil and minds filled with mayhem—and worse? Can you tell which of these caregivers is real and who is merely a figment of a warped imagination?

  1. This nurse is a romantic at heart. When she discovers the author of her favorite novels is injured in an accident she takes him home with her to convalesce. She caters to his every need in a cheery manner until discovering he is planning to kill off her most beloved fictional heroine. Enraged by this decision she keeps the writer a virtual prisoner in her home, demanding he write a new version of his novel, where the heroine triumphs over evil. When he balks at this idea, the nurse's true personality emerges as she berates, drugs and tortures him into submission. Real or fictional?
  2. An orphan by the time he is a teen this frequently depressed and suicidal young man grows up to be a nurse, providing care in hospitals throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania. While working as a health care provider this gentleman fantasizes about stealing drugs from his hospital and using them to end his miserable life. Instead, his nursing career spans 16 years along a trail littered with bodies. Ultimately he is apprehended and admits to at least 40 murders by overdose. In a final act of caring for others, this nurse donates a kidney to a patient on the brink of renal failure. Real or fictional?
  3. Committed to the care and well being of the mentally ill, this nurse spends her career working in a state institution on the west coast. Because she does such a fine job maintaining order she is allowed free rein by the hospital administration. However, all is not as it seems. As the head nurse she dispenses her own kind of treatment of humiliation, extreme drug distribution, electroconvulsive (ECT or shock) therapy, and lobotomy. Despite patient's who commit suicide under her care and others who are murdered she remains in a position of power at the hospital. Real or fictional?
  4. Committed to caring for children, this pediatric nurse often saved the lives of the sickest in her charge. She greatly enjoys the praise heaped on her for lifesaving abilities. However, over time, hospital officials realize she has a few too many dying patients and to keep from any further investigation she is asked to resign from her hospital. She easily finds more work in a more rural setting. Believing that he local hospital would benefit from a pediatric intensive care unit she returns to her former behaviors poisoning infants and children in order to revive them. Many do not survive her ministrations but she survives in prison. Real or fictional?


  1. Actress Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal of Stephen King's character Annie Wilkes in the movie Misery. Wilkes is ranked the 17th most iconic villain in film history. With her back story of graduating from nursing school in southern California and working in several hospitals around the country she eventually settles down in Colorado. While her favorite author is under her torturous control he finds a scrapbook detailing her serial killer lifestyle which dates back to her childhood. Her killings include family, neighbors and 11 infants who died under mysterious circumstances. Finally, the author escapes her killer clutches, turns tables on Wilkes and kills her.
  2. Charles Edmund Cullen is suspected responsible for some 400 murders, which would make him the most prolific serial killer in American history. When he was arrested in 2003 Cullen told the detectives that he had murdered as many as 40 patients during his nursing career at 10 different hospitals. However, as police and psychiatric professionals and one journalist interviewed him after his arrest, it became certain he had killed many more patients over the years, he just couldn't specifically remember them. Despite suspicious behavior noted at some hospitals and even being fired for poor performance the nationwide nursing shortage teamed with poor state reporting mechanisms allowed Cullen to continue working as a nurse. Cullen is currently serving a sentence of life without parole for over 100 years as part of his guilty pleas in the deaths of 13 patients in New Jersey.
  3. The evil nurse certainly seems to be a recipe for success in the movies. Before Bates took home the Oscar, Louise Fletcher won best actress in 1976 for portraying the sociopathic Nurse Mildred Ratched. As the primary antagonist in author Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ratched wielded an iron fist over her charges in the Oregon mental institution. It is the arrival or Randall McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson (who also won an Oscar in this movie) that nearly topples her evil empire. Eventually evil does triumph after McMurphy tries to strangle her, she has him lobotomized then a fellow patient puts him out of his misery by smothering him. However, her rule is never quite the same. Ratched's character has become a stereotype for the scary, bully nurse.
  4. Nurse Genene Jones is believed to have killed as many as 46 infants and children in her quest for recognition and praise. And, she was an overachiever, this all happened in the course of two years while working in south Texas. She is known to have given children in her care injections of digoxin, heparin, and succinylocholine to induce medical emergencies her patients. Her intent was to revive them but she was often not successful. The exact number of children she murdered has never been determined, because after her first conviction hospital officials claimed to have misplaced, then accidently destroyed medical records. This kept the cases from further investigation and litigation. In 1985 Jones was sentenced to 99 years in prison for killing one child and later the same year she was sentenced to another 60 years to run concurrently for the death of a second child. Jones will actually receive an automatic parole in 2017 due to a law in place when she was originally sentenced that dealt with prison overcrowding.



To bring the stories of these creepy caregivers full circle, Rob Reiner, who directed Misery, claims to have loosely based Annie Wilkes' baby killing spree on the tragic true life drama caused by Genene Jones.


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